So here is a sentence "Nach dem Befinden fragen". It means something alongs the lines of "Ask how you are feeling." pursuant to DeepL. Is it some kind of an imperative? Also, I don't quite understand the grammar behind this sentence. What grammatical gymnastics must you employ in order to equate the original German sentence with the English translation?

  • 3
    I recommend to drop the expectation expressed in the last question: different languages ( or their grammars) work differently and existence of a path to map between them can't be taken for granted.
    – guidot
    May 21, 2023 at 19:23

3 Answers 3


"Nach dem Befinden fragen" isn't a sentence, it's just a verb with it's prepositional object, which might be part of the confusion. A grammatically more correct translation would be "to ask [someone] about state of health", or, more freely, "to ask [someone] how they're feeling". DeepL left out the word "to" that is normally used in English to mark an infinitive, that's why the English translation looks like an imperative.

"To ask about something" is "nach etwas fragen" in German. It's the same grammatical structure, just different prepositions and word orders.

"Das Befinden" is a fancy noun for the state of a person's health or well-being.


nach etwas (Dativ) fragen

means "to ask about/for something" (infinitive)

das Befinden

means "health" or "condition"


Nach dem Befinden fragen

means "to ask about the health" or more freely "to ask how someone is feeling"

This is not an imperative but an infinitive since we just combined the infinitive with a dative object.


Commands sound rather harsh in German so the imperative verb is often left out. This is most common on signage.

  • (Sie sollen) Den Aufzug im Brandfall nicht benutzen.

This style is also used for recipes and notes:

  • (Sie müssen) Die Eier trennen und den Schnee aufschlagen.

  • (Ich muss noch) Nach dem Befinden fragen.

So what you see there is the infinitive that complements the left out modal.

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    I would call this the impersonal imperative. I guess you could interpret it as an ellipsis, but to me it's simpler to call it a form of imperative, one that English doesn't happen to have. It doesn't have a finite verb or require a subject, which is unusual in German.
    – RDBury
    May 21, 2023 at 18:52
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    I don’t know that this is relevant to the question. I think the OP just mistook the English infinitive for an imperative because they look the same. But it’s not really clear from the question.
    – Carsten S
    May 21, 2023 at 22:23
  • So here is a sentence "Nach dem Befinden fragen". To me, that reads as if Dr. Doom read this in the context of a story rather than in a dictionary.
    – Janka
    May 21, 2023 at 22:28

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